This information was prepared by the British Dental Health Foundation which it hopes you will find of value as a basis to help discussion with your dentist. Further information is also available direct from the Foundation. Please send your question, together with a stamped addressed envelope to :

British Dental Foundation, Eastlands Court, St.Peter's Road, Rugby CV21 3QP

Q Why should I replace missing teeth?

For a number of reasons:- appearance, to help you eat, to prevent the remaining teeth moving into unhealthy positions, or a combination of all these factors.

Q What happens if teeth move?

On some occasions teeth opposite, or teeth next to, the gap can move into the space. This may be harmful because it can result in tooth decay or gum disease. The new position of the tooth often makes it difficult to replace satisfactorily the missing teeth.

Q How are teeth replaced?

This depends very much on how many are missing and their position in the mouth. The condition of the remaining teeth must also be considered. Basically, missing teeth can be replaced either by a 'removable' prosthesis - a partial denture, which can be taken out and put back by the patient, or by a 'fixed' prosthesis - a bridge, which cannot be removed by the patient.

Q What is a partial denture?

This consists of false teeth fixed to a plate which is then usually held in place by the use of clips (clasps) that fit around some of the remaining teeth. These clips may be visible in certain parts of the mouth.

Q What are teeth made of?

Generally plastic, but in some cases porcelain is used.They are chosen to match the shape, size and colour of your own teeth.

Q What is the plate made of?

The plate is made of a either a plastic or metal base such as chrome cobalt, or in some cases gold or stainless steel.

Q What is the difference between a plastic and a metal based denture?

Plastic partial dentures are relatively easy and inexpensive to make. Although suitable for a limited number of cases, they may harm the remaining teeth. Metal dentures can be made more accurately and as the metal is much stronger than the plastic the the plate is usually smaller and thinner. These metal dentures, of course, have teeth attached to them and often a certain amount of gum coloured plastic into which the teeth are fixed. Metal dentures are considerably more complex and expensive to make.

Q How do I decide which sort to choose?

Your dentist should advise you as to which will be more suitable. However, cost may influence the decision.

Q How do I look after my denture?

The denture should be taken out of the mouth and cleaned as specified by your dentist. Generally they should be scrubbed under running water with soap using a large toothbrush or nailbrush. They can then be rinsed and left soaking overnight in a proprietry denture cleaner. Do not use toothpaste on a denture as it is too abrasive. There are special 'toothpastes' on the market for cleaning dentures but these should not be used on natural teeth.

Q Should I sleep with my denture in?

It is generally though best that partial and full dentures should be taken out of the mouth during sleep. This allows the saliva in your mouth time to prevent infections building up under the denture.

Q Is there an alternative to a partial denture?

As mentioned previously, it is possible in some cases to have a 'fixed' prosthesis, usually called a bridge. A bridge consists of false teeth filling the gap and fixed to existing teeth. This is stuck firmly in place and is not removable by the patient. What usually happens is that adjacent teeth are cut down and prepared for crowns. Onto these crowns are fixed the false teeth and the whole unit is then stuck in place.

Remember, it is as important to meticulously clean and care for your replaced missing teeth as it is to care for your remaining natural teeth.